Georgia Divorce Law

Divorce Laws in Georgia

Georgia divorce laws have maintained for 13 grounds required for divorce. Among these grounds are adultery and cruel treatment. However, most divorces in Georgia are granted on the no-fault ground that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and without fault or wrongdoing. Additionally, one of the spouses must have resided in Georgia for at least 6 months prior to filing for a decree of divorce in Georgia.

Alimony & Equitable Distribution in Georgia

Georgia is known as an equitable distribution state. According to the divorce laws in Georgia this means that the marital property must be divided fairly or equitably, but not necessarily equally.

Alimony is granted not for the purpose of punishing or rewarding one spouse but to provide an adequate income for the spouse who has become economically dependent on the other. Either spouse then, can be awarded alimony. Such factors as the prior standard of living of the couple and the length of the marriage shall be considered when awarding alimony.

Georgia Child Support, Child Custody and Child Visitation

According to Georgia divorce law, custody of all children must be determined before a divorce will be granted. The parents may decide who receives custody of their children. If they are unable to come to an agreement the court will then resolve the matter. Such issues as the age and gender of the children, the relationship with the parents and which parents has been the primary caregiver will be considered. Additionally, the court must also take into account the wishes of the child regarding the primary residence if he or she is between the ages of 11 and 14. The non-custodial parent will usually be granted visitation rights. However, the parents may also decide upon visitation rights. If they cannot come to an agreement in advance the court will make a determination based upon the schedule for possession of minor children.

Child support is determined by the “child support guidelines” as set forth by divorce law in Georgia. Expect to pay child support until the age of 18 or when the child graduates from high school, whichever is later, but not past the age of 20.

SOURCE: Divorce Interactive

Tax Treatment on Sale of Principal Residence by Divorced Couples

Married couples are allowed up to $500,000 ($250,000 each) in profits, tax free from the sale of their principal residence, as long as they have owned and occupied the residence as a principal residence for at least two of the five years before the sale. Formerly, a spouse who moved out as a result of divorce lost his or her $250,000 deduction because it was no longer the principal residence. However, thanks to a change in the tax law, an ex-spouse can now retain that exclusion.

The law contains a specific provision relating to property used by the spouse of a former spouse pursuant to a divorce decree (26 U.S.C. § 121 (d)(3B)). This section states that “an individual shall be treated as using property as such individual’s principal residence during any period of ownership while such individual’s spouse or former spouse is granted use of the property under a divorce or separation instrument.”
 
This addresses the case of where an individual has retained ownership in the house but where the former spouse occupies the house for a period of more than 3 years from the time the owner (the non-occupying individual) has vacated the home. This allows the non-occupying individual to exclude up to $250,000 of gain when the house is sold, even though he or she did not actually occupy the home for two of the last five years before the sale.

To qualify, the spouse who moved out must remain an owner and the divorce or separation agreement must grant that spouse the use of the home. If a spouse who is the sole owner remarries, the new spouse must live in the house for two years to qualify for the full $500,000 exclusion.   

SOURCE: DivorceNet

Do’s and Don’ts of Divorce

Bankrate.com suggests the following financial and emotional do’s and don’ts to help achieve a smoother divorce:

  • DO consult with a lawyer. It’s a good idea, especially if you have children or assets. Experts say when looking for an attorney, you should ask people you trust for recommendations, and don’t cut corners when it comes to good, solid legal help. If you intend to hire a lawyer, start putting aside money for your legal costs, so you can pay the upfront retainer fee often required. The lawyer’s hourly rate is billed against the retainer. "To try to navigate without a lawyer would be like trying to do your own open heart surgery," says John Finnerty, a certified matrimonial attorney and chairman of Finnerty & Sherwood in Fair Lawn, N.J.
  • DO make copies. Photocopy every important, relevant document from the last three years of your marriage. This includes tax returns, mortgage payments, bank statements, pay stubs, stock certificates and bonds – to supply your lawyer or mediator.
  • DO steer clear of damaging credit problems. Cancel joint credit cards. Experts say if your credit card accounts are in both you and your spouse’s names, and they remain open, you are still responsible for any charges made by your spouse. If charges go unpaid, they can end up on your credit report. Get credit cards and accounts in your own name to build your own credit.
  • DO make sure you’re covered. Medical insurance coverage can end in divorce. If you are on your husband’s insurance plan, you should be able to continue coverage for up to 36 months under the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Under this plan you pay the premiums, which may be expensive.
  • DO take a home and asset inventory. This will better clarify what exactly needs to be divided. Susan Goldstein, family law attorney and co-author with Valerie Colb of "The Smart Divorce: A Practical Guide to the 200 Things You Must Know," advises you to write down everything you know about your assets and debts, and record the persons who can be witnesses. It’s good for people to compile lists. You can’t bring your lawyer too much information, Goldstein says.  Also consider taking pictures or videos of your home and contents and making copies of family photographs you want to keep. "Family photographs are often a major point of contention," she says.
  • DO think about tax consequences. For instance, if a stock is valued at $3,000, it may only be worth $2,600 in cash after capital gains taxes are paid. Thus, it would not be the same as receiving $3,000 cash in a divorce settlement. "If couples are trying to provide each with similar amounts of spendable money, they must consider the costs of converting certain assets into cash before deciding how to divide items," cautions Margorie Engel, author, president and CEO of Stepfamily Association of America.
  • DO choose your assets carefully. When staking a claim in assets, remember that choosing the wrong assets may end up costing you money, instead of making you money. If you want to keep the house, for instance, first educate yourself about the fair market value of your home, says Goldstein. Remember that you’ll have to make the mortgage payments and pay taxes, interest, insurance, utilities and maintenance extras. Selling it won’t be a picnic, either: The brokerage costs and taxes from the sale will be solely your responsibility.
  • DO line up your own emotional support. Choose friends you can trust, because you never know who may end up turning on you or even testifying against you later. Consulting with a counselor can keep you thinking clearly in order to focus on your divorce plan. If you anticipate a child custody fight, you may want to take your child to a therapist before it starts. Randy Rolfe, author of "The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents," states that when you have counseling, you’ll be less likely to give up and give over things in the divorce.

Experts also recommend that you remain practical — legally and emotionally — when planning your divorce. There some things you should never do:

  • Don’t skimp on legal help.
  • Don’t just move out of your home. Unless you fear physical harm, talk to your lawyer before you make your move.
  • Don’t try to do it all. Some cases do need experts like accountants, appraisers, etc. Thinking you can do these things on your own can be counterproductive.
  • Don’t share a lawyer with your spouse. This scenario presents a huge conflict of interest. Most lawyers won’t do it, and it could borderline on malpractice.
  • Don’t make revenge the goal of the divorce.
  • Don’t compare your divorce to another divorce. Each case has its own set of facts, with its own personality.
  • Don’t bad-mouth your spouse to your children. It can backfire on you in ways you don’t expect.
  • Don’t just think about your actions, but also consider the impact they can have in a case. For example, don’t write a letter you would mind being read in a courtroom.

A divorce will affect you legally, financially and emotionally. Although deciding to divorce isn’t easy, taking the time to incorporate these do’s and don’ts can make the process — and its financial and emotional consequences — as uncomplicated as possible.

Source:  "The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Divorced" by Leah Gliniewicz, published at Bankrate.com.
SOURCE FOR POST: South Carolina Family Law Blog

Georgia’s New Income Shares Child Support Guidelines

The new Georgia child support guidelines become effective January 1, 2007, and apply to all pending civil actions on or after January 1, 2007. Under the new guidelines, there are several steps that are used to arrive at a child support obligation. First, the gross income of both the mother and the father is determined. This income includes amounts from all non-exempt sources and includes: salary, wages, commissions, self-employed income, bonuses, overtime pay, severance pay, pension and retirement income, interest income, dividend income, trust income annuity income, capital gains, Social Security disability payments, worker’s compensation benefits, unemployment benefits, judgments from personal injury claims or other civil cases, gifts, prizes, alimony from persons not in the subject case, assets which are used for support of family, fringe benefits that significantly reduce living expenses, and any other income including imputed income. Variable income such as commissions or bonuses must be averaged over a reasonable period of time.

After the gross income of both the mother and father is determined, the income may be adjusted in three ways. If there is self-employed income, there is a reduction for one-half of the self-employment taxes being paid. Secondly, if either parent is paying child support under a preexisting child support order, the monthly gross income of such parent is reduced by the amount of monthly support such parent has been actually paying. Finally, if either parent is supporting his or her own children living in the home, but who are not the subject of this child support determination, the court in its discretion may reduce the gross income after calculating a theoretical child support order. This final adjustment will be difficult to obtain since the court must find the failure to do so would cause a financial hardship on the parent and that such adjustment is in the best interest of the child in the case at hand.

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